Edward Vielmetti: Where Sun Bakery used to be
If you didn't grow up in Ann Arbor, interpreting directions can be tricky. As often as not, people who have been here longer than you have will tell you where things are by describing where things used to be - buildings or businesses that are now long gone, known only by memories. This secret landscape of unseen landmarks means than when some people talk about real estate development, they call to the minds of their listeners battles over development and density from long ago, battles which the recent immigrant can only puzzle at.
The Sun Bakery, seen in this 1976 photo from the Ann Arbor District Library's "Ann Arbor Signs" collection, was a natural foods bakery at the corner of Fifth and Liberty downtown. It is remembered for its delicious brownies and big gooey slices of whole-wheat veggie pizza, and the baker, Robert Cantelon, is now a partner at Arbor Farms. There is one whole set of stories to be told at length about the development and evolution of natural foods businesses in the 1970s, with Eden Foods transforming itself from a hippie cafe on Maynard Street into a large natural foods wholesale grocer based in Clinton. If you follow the food theme, you get long hours, hard, honest work and whole wheat.
The other side of the story is of course not about food but about development, and how Liberty Street got a big, blocky seven story building where a bakery used to be. A 2008 Michigan Business Review story neatly summaries the tale starting in 1986 of the construction of a 77,000 square foot building, its reposession by a bank in the late 1990s, and the details that the building is on the market. This is the building that the AnnArbor.com offices are in.
I've started looking for the "what happened in 1986" story; I know it involves developers, ambition, construction, and the loss of whole wheat pizza. I can't pretend that I grew up here; I don't know that story, not well enough to tell it as a journalist or even as a blogger. The usual lazy or even clever search of Internet databases comes up blank. But I can say (to people of a certain age and tenure) that I work "where Sun Bakery used to be", and be confident that they will nod sagely and know where I'm talking about.